Veteran Stories:
Lloyd Henderson

Air Force

  • Aircrew with a Handley Page Halifax B.III aircraft of No. 433 (Porcupine) Squadron, R.C.A.F., returning from a daylight raid on German flying-bomb sites in France. Skipton-on-Swale, England, 1944. (L-R): Sgt. Joe Zareikin, F/S H.S. McNab, Sgt. Jimmy Paul.

    Unknown Photographer; Mikan Number: 3614990
  • Lloyd and Margaret Henderson in 2009.

    Lloyd Henderson
  • Lloyd Henderson's medals, including his Distinguished Flying Cross.

    Lloyd Henderson
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"The navigator, he throws his stuff on the tarmac and says, you know, those so and so’s were trying to kill us. We thought that was funny."

Transcript

I was brought up on a farm. I was at the right age to be called up for military service. After we were through harvest on the farm, I decided that I would try for air crew. I had to pass all the exams and such like. Then I was chosen for a pilot.

I got the wings in Saskatoon and then we went overseas. We trained on Oxfords and then on Whitleys, which were the heavy bombers at the start of the war. And then when we finished Whitleys, we were sent to Dalton battle school for awhile. And then we were sent to a conversion unit [training centre] at Dishforth, where we converted from twin- to four engines.

And we flew the Halifax V, which was, they were the survivors of operations. They were actually piles of junk, stuff that was no longer fit to fly on operations. And that’s the kind of stuff we flew with, which we didn’t see too much of, but they lost about 10 percent of the Bomber Command on training stations.

When we were posted, the whole course was sent to No. 4 Group . No. 4 Group was RAF, Royal Air Force, south of York. We figured we’d be sent to the Canadian No. 6 Group but they said the whole course is posted to No. 4 Group.

As a pilot, I did one trip with an experienced crew and then you’re on your own. When you went in the briefing room, then you saw on the wall a map what trip you were on. My sixth trip to Trappes the marshalling yard near Paris. They apparently had to get this marshalling yard, so they sent us out on a moonlight night which was not a good idea. Because the Jerry [German] fighters were already there, dropping flares. And they’re lighting up the sky and the fighters could find the bombers without any trouble.

Twelve and a half percent of the airplanes were lost that night. And that night, we shot down a fighter. It was some airplane flying above us we thought, but it happened to be two fighters. And one split and went to the right and one went to the left. The one to the right disappeared and the other one came around in a curve and came in right behind us. And the rear gunner, Vern Marks, let him have it. We could see the fire going around thecowling. That was at 10,000 feet and he went straight in.

Didn’t think much about that at the time, we just wondered, at this 12 and a half percent, you’d only last eight trips if you kept that up. There was another one about the third ride up the Ruhr [area of Germany], bombed at 18,000 feet. And then we were to come down because the powers that be said that the searchlights were moved back 20 miles from the route we were going to take and they would have to come right down to get it. So if we stayed up at 10,000 feet, they would get it. Searchlights would get us but we were to come down to 3,500 feet. So to get a heavy bomber from the 18, 000 to 3,500 feet, you’ve got to be moving. As soon as you put the nose down, you’re picking up speed, so where you cut back the engine, we were coming down at about 325. We were to come to 3,500 feet. Some of them that didn’t come down got shot up a little bit, because the searchlights could catch them. But at 3,500 feet, they couldn’t get down. But when we got to 3,500 feet, I said to the crew, we’re about 3,500, we’re going to level out. The rear gunner says, keep going down, there’s a Halifax right above us. And he said, there’s a fighter firing at him. And they got him, instead of us. So that’s one close shave. But it was good for the morale because you got away with another one.

One time when we were coming out of a target, it was a daylight raid that we had on an airfield and I told the engineer, we weren’t too high, we were about 10,000 feet I think, I told the engineer to stand up with his head in the astrodome and keep a look, because other airplanes were coming out above us. And just then the rear gunner says, with the predicted flak, they fired six bursts at an angle from the port side across from front of you to the right, the starboard side. You’d better not be in there. We just saw an aircraft hit with a flak and it blew up, burned. The rear gunner says, dive starboard. Well, I didn’t waste any time, I did that. And about the second or third burst, hit above us and blew a bunch of Perspex [clear plastic, of which cockpit canopies were made] off, back at my head. And the engineer, I was afraid to look around because I thought maybe his head would be gone but he’d stepped down as soon as I banked. He’s jumping around, saying I’m hit, I’m hit and he was still on his feet, so I pulled his intercom plug out to stop the excitement and said to the bomb aimer, you’d better come up here and look at Jack, he says he’s been hit, my engineer.

So I thought the bomb aimer was the right guy to bring up because he was an undertaker in civilian life. So, but Jack got hit on the knee and the hand with flying Perspex. Scared the life out of him but it didn’t really hurt him. But that’s the only guy that got hit during my tour.

When we got home, everything was pretty quiet after that and we got home. The navigator, he throws his stuff on the tarmac and says, you know, those so and so’s were trying to kill us. We thought that was funny.

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